The Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL, Farmers’ Alliance in Central Luzon) criticized president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s statement that it would order the Dept. of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Dept. of Agrarian Reform (DAR) the immediate investigation on the heightening land dispute on areas where the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) interchange is being constructed. The site is at barangays San Pascual and Batang-batang in Tarlac City which are very near Hacienda Luisita. There are also reports that farmers’ lands are being claimed by real estate developers at Brgy. Balingcanaway adjacent to Brgy. Cut-cut of the hacienda.
“Are we really hearing this from the president? Acting to do something on the worsening land grabbing in Tarlac City? When the main point is that real estate developers, speculators are only anticipating what the Cojuangco-Aquinos have wanted since 1996, the massive land use conversion of vast sugarlands of the hacienda, attempting to convert it into an eco-zone,” said Joseph Canlas, AMGL Chairperson.
“The president’s family and relatives are the first land grabbers in Tarlac City, they are also the major land speculator, offering lands that they do not morally and historically own,” he added.
AMGL said that alarming land dispute in Tarlac City is primarily triggered by the dispute at Hacienda Luisita where the Cojuangco-Aquinos plan to convert the remaining 4,915-hectares agricultural lands into industrial, residential and commercial lands.
“It started when the Cojuangco-Aquinos claimed compensation for the right-of-way for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) though the legitimate owners of the land are the farmworkers. Now that its extension is being constructed, farmers are being snatched of their lands, houses being demolished and tree crops being cut, thus, the unrest worsens,” Canlas said.
“It is also unbelievable that Aquino is clueless about the issue when farmers are already blocking the entry of the TPLEx project. This is also very near the hacienda, thus the so-called president is either playing ignorant about it,” he added.
AMGL said that a certain Marilou Abrilles is claiming lands at the TPLEx site using a fake Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA). Farmers in Brgy. San Pascual said that Abrilles is not a legitimate farmer-beneficiary as she is a relative of the former owner of the Abrilles estate, Don Fernando Abrilles. They also claim she is a resident of Brgy. San Nicolas in Tarlac City, a known “fixer” and “speculator” who has many connections to the agrarian reform office, local police and courts, and obviously not a farmer.
Farmers said that Abrilles has conspired with former Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer (MARO) Maximo Santiago who issued a certificate of occupancy to Abrilles and facilitated her application for a CLOA. Santiago himself claimed lands and named them after his family members. However, Abrilles’ CLOA has been ordered by the Dept. of Agrarian Reform Region III office (DAR III) cancelled but DPWH officials and TPLEx project personnel continue to transact with Abrilles.
“It is very obvious that this is a fraudalent transaction between a speculator, government officials and the TPLEx contractor,” said Canlas.
AMGL said that the lands were confiscated by the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (People’s Liberation Army) during the 1950s and landlords flee the area. The lands were distributed by the HMB to the cultivating farmers but at present, landlords’ relatives are restoring their claim.
AMGL said that the affected farmers who are members of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Tarlak (Farmers’ Alliance in Tarlac) are already preparing for the heightened protest against the TPLEx project’s encroachment on their lands.
“We already had a dialogue with Tarlac Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO) officials and only committed to study about it. Subsequently, we have plans of a dialogue with the DPWH,” Canlas said.
AMGL added that Abrilles was spotted inside Hacienda Luisita early this month, accompanied by former MARO official Maximo Santiago and incumbent MARO official Lydia Lundang. Farmworkers reported that they are talking to barangay officials.
“This syndicate are also invading the hacienda, luring barangay officials with money as they did with other barangays,” Canlas said.
“If Aquino is really serious about his statement, he should order the immediate termination of demolition of farmers’ houses and cutting of their tree crops, compensate them and file appropriate charges against Abrilles, former MARO official Santiago, corrupt DPWH officials and TPLEx project personnels,” demanded Canlas.
“Aquino should think before saying anything idiotic, it only proves that he knows nothing about Tarlac City, its people, farmers and poor people, he is like ordering other people to look onto what is happening at his own neighborhood,” Canlas said. #